Get Gritty

Make your transition back to the beach a little smoother with this sand mobility drill

Paul Joyner
This sand drill will help you with your transition from the court to sand.

Summer is on its way. Soon enough it will be time to ditch the gym and hit the sand. Making the adjustment from indoor volleyball to sand volleyball will take some time, but you can shortcut the process by making sure you’re Sandfit.

Compared to hard court volleyball, sand volleyball has significantly less impact on the knees, hips, and ankle joints. Just moving in the sand will strengthen all of the tendons and ligaments surrounding the joints of the lower body, making you less prone to injury during your high-impact indoor season.

You might also notice when playing traditional doubles sand volleyball, you’re responsible for a lot more court and thus fatigue your muscles even more than when you play indoor volleyball. Why?

When you play on an indoor court, the floor pushes back, which helps you rebound and accelerate quickly. Sand, on the other hand, absorbs most of your energy and provides little to no energy back for moving forward or propelling you up.

Try this the next time you’re in deep sand: run a few yards then make a hard cut back toward where you started. You will see a divot in the sand where you made the cut back. That divot was formed when the sand absorbed your energy. Instead of giving you energy back to utilize in acceleration, the sand actually robbed you. Sand volleyball athletes need to develop the ability to claw, dig, and drive themselves through the first few steps of a movement in order to build up speed quickly on a very unstable surface.

It goes without saying that a certain amount of weight training is very important for staying healthy and performing your best throughout long indoor and/or sand volleyball careers, but the only way to really acclimate to the different surface is to actually train in it. Any standard footwork and plyometric exercises performed in the sand will be beneficial, but I want to teach you an effective conditioning drill in the sand that integrates a ball and has volleyball-specific conditioning movements.

You can make up many different variations of this exercise, but here’s one of my favorites. You will need a teammate, coach, or training partner to facilitate the volleyball portion.

Equipment needed:

- Two cones (or flip flops) as markers
- Two volleyballs
Set up:
- One cone at start line and one 10 yards away
- Position your teammate somewhere along the 10-yard line in front or slightly to the side of where you’re facing

The Drill

- Sprint up to the 10-yard line and stop once you’re approximately an arm’s length in front of your teammate. (A) Imagine that the 10-yard line is a net that separates you, and perform a max block jump and land balanced. (B)

- Peel away from the 10-yard line as if pulling off the net by opening up with a jab step, followed by a crossover step, and finish square, facing your teammate in a balanced athletic position (alternate the direction you open every time you repeat the drill). (C)

- Next, your teammate drops one ball just out of your reach (in front and slightly to the side of his or her body so they aren’t in the way). Lunge forward with a controlled dive and dig the ball up toward your partner. (D)

- After making the dig, use your chest, triceps, and shoulders to explode up and start to turn back toward the start line as your teammate underhand lobs a high spinning ball back toward the farthest cone. (E)

- Chase down the ball and pass it back over your shoulder toward your teammate as you run through the ball past the finish line. Your teammate’s toss will dictate whether you need dive or stay on your feet. (F)

- Take several deep breaths and perform 1-3 more rounds before switching places with your teammate.

Keep in mind:

- This drill is fitness first and volleyball second, so don’t worry too much about your volleyball form.

- If you’re performing this drill with a series of other exercises, or volleyball training, you should only perform a few sets. If performing this drill as a workout by itself, you should perform 10+ sets of this drill or similar variations.

- This conditioning drill will improve your fitness and volleyball abilities, but nothing beats actually playing in the sand, so get out there!

Originally published in May 2014

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